I Have Seen You.

We set off this morning to travel only a few kilometres to an orphanage that AIM started working with just a short time ago. Yesterday they told us of when they first found the orphanage – they had served their last available food. One of the small boys was clutching a small container to his chest. They explained that he had saved half his meal for the next day, knowing that there was no food left.

The Son of God orphanage is being run by a pastor and his wife – they said it was never in their plan to open an orphanage but what else were they going to do? As recent as three days ago, they discovered another boy, Jean-Michel, living on the streets after both his parents were killed in the earthquake. Others are being taken in by the orphanage as their parents have no way of caring for them, providing for them.

Even in the least-affected areas of Port-Au-Prince there is rubble and trash lining the streets and the streets are full of people. Vendors are trying to resume business but for many the quake destroyed their businesses and source of income. The worst of this is that is breaks the economic cycle of an already devastated country. For those with no income, there is no way to purchase the food when you can find it.

Back to the children.. Junio caught my eye with his delicious smile. His joy at seeing his face reflected in the view screen of my camera was worth the shots he wanted me to take. Most of the children were slow to smile. The first shots they are so somber and serious, you realize that amidst whatever hope they have found, they are still grieving. They are marked with it. Then when I show them the moment captured in my lens, they break out into laughter and smiles. Then they are ready to really have their photo taken and the laughing and joy begins! With their friends, with their brother, with their teacher… whoever they can find. And I wish I had brought my snapshot printer with me, to give them something back.

The story is the same when we head out into the tent cities later in the afternoon. From behind tents made of donated tarps, sheets, towels, women's dresses these cherub faces come poking out with smiles and curiosity. For a moment I am lost in the hope that my presence means something to them.. that if I have taken their portrait that someone has seen them, someone has captured them.

We went to a local building site where the rubble of destroyed homes is being carted painfully slowly by wheelbarrow to become the foundation of a new building. Once there, the cinderblocks are broken apart by hand, using a hammer. To one side, a man breaks limestone rocks into tiny pieces – he is making gravel to sell.

We journey deeper into the village to see that many of the buildings have kept the first floor, while the second level collapsed in on itself or onto the street below. These houses are closed in by massive piles of rubble. Many are sleeping in donated or makeshift tents in the streets or on the rooftops.

The shantytown tent cities are row after row of tents and tarp, and they cover every available piece on land in Port-Au-Prince it seems. Feels like the only grass we have seen left untouched by the quake is the lawn in front of the destroyed Presidential Palace.
No one can account for the hygiene situation but the presence of a longdrop type hole in the back of one of the tent cities we walked through seemed to make sense. Everyone is thinking the same thing though – with thunderstorms predicted for the next week, we are in the height of the rainy season. With all that water and debris in the streets, the rivers and causeways are likely to become rivers of disease and ongoing disaster.

Mostly people simply took what they could from their homes and set up camp in the closest space of empty land. So a field becomes a village. Most seem to have their own committees leading them – looking after security and the like. Still, I wouldn't have liked to be walking their without our local guides, who seem to know many people and stop to shake hands frequently.

I think it's interesting that back home in NZ, so few pastors would know everybody in their neighbourhood, but these guys are really connected, so it makes sense that so many people are looking to them for help.

Enough for now. I'm looking out the window at a sunset that is beautiful. Which is enough reminder that there is still hope to be had for this city. I know that people are listening and want to help. We will make a way.

Posted via email from Tash McGill

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